Friday, December 29, 2006

The Man Who Believed

Last night I enjoyed a hot chai and a special treat at Kaminsky's, a local favorite for sweets. For the first time since our initial e-mail nearly two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting my literary agent, Mark Gilroy, face to face. And not only that, but his lovely wife and two of his daughters. It truly was a special evening for me.

You see, my first novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, will be released very soon in February. Mark Gilroy is the man who helped make this happen by loving my book, believing in it, and believing in me as a writer. He sold The Spirit of Sweetgrass in a two-book deal last February to Integrity Publishers, now a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. And he'd never even met me.

Introducing me to his family, Mark told them of our initial contact in March 2005, when I wrote him, told him I was a new writer and that I had a book I'd like him to review. He asked me to send it to him by e-mail and to my surprise and joy, within hours, Mark wrote me back to say he loved it and would like to represent me.

It's a funny thing, this technological age, this e-mail and telephone communication. We converse with one another regularly without ever making eye contact, without ever seeing facial expressions. And without ever having seen my face, Mark Gilroy believed in me, just as he believed in the words I put on paper in The Spirit of Sweetgrass.

This next year, 2007, my first novel will come out and my literary career "officially" will begin. I am excited, humbled and grateful to many people who have made my words into a real-life book. And Mark Gilroy is one person who will forever have my gratitude. As I reflect on the past couple years and gear up for the exciting new one ahead, finally being able to thank Mark in person and meet his beautiful family was icing on the cake.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gullah/Geechee Celebration

I was honored to speak at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition yesterday in Charleston. Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, led the participants in prayer and the day began with a viewing of a powerful and informative documentary, Will to Survive - The Story of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, part of Wal-Mart's Voices of Color series. I hope many people get a chance to watch this educational film!

I read excerpts from my upcoming novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, and shared the origins of my book--a spiritual journey that still fills me with awe and wonder. Next, a lovely woman and author of "I'm Black and I'm Proud," Wished the White Girl, Lynn Bryant-Markovich, told of her experiences growing up on St. Helena Island in a mixed family and embedded in and embraced by the Gullah community. Fascinating.
So much progress in the form of protections of Gullah/Geechee land, rights and culture has been made since the inception of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition ten years ago. It will be exciting to watch the future of this group and of the Gullah/Geechee people as a whole.
My protagonist, Essie Mae, would be mighty proud.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Christmas Miracle

It's been a while since I've written, but things have been busy, kids have been sick. But tonight I have the pleasure of speaking to the Seacoast Christian Writers' Group at Barnes and Noble. It's the same group that I joined soon after beginning writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass, when I finally took the next step of faith to share my work with other human beings. Little did I know the power of a group of like-minded people who share my faith and a passion for expression through the written word. This lovely group of folks not only became my sounding board for new chapters every month, but they became my friends. They encouraged me, believed in me, prayed for me and cheered with me when my book sold. And now I get to share my experiences of this last year's publishing journey with them in hopes that my words may provide direction and encouragement when they need it most. It's quite an honor.

I believe it is partly through prayer--mine, my family's and my writers' group's--that The Spirit of Sweetgrass will be released in February. My debut novel is about the sheer Power of prayer. And my faith in the power of prayer was strengthened just this morning, which is why I decided to write again.

You see, I spoke with my mother-in-law last night, a very tearful (and this is highly unusual for her) mother-in-law who told me about her cat, Socks, getting out of the house. They'd just moved to a new place a few weeks ago and have been vigilant not to let the cats out for fear of them getting lost in new surroundings. As of 9:00 last night, Socks the Cat had been missing for nearly 36 hours. Judy had made phone calls, driven around calling his name, made fliers, the works, to no avail. I told her I'd be praying for Socks to come home, and I knew she was praying as well. I said, "I just bet he'll come home soon and be our Christmas Miracle." I said it, hoping it was true.

So this morning, my mother-in-law called me and I screamed in her ear when she told me the story of Socks' wonderful homecoming. Apparently a little more than an hour after we hung up the phone last night, Socks' brother, Shadow, was staring intently out the window, then jumped down and ran to the door that leads to the garage and meowed. Judy followed his lead, opened the garage door, and in walked Socks! He was fine, just a little hungry and tired, and is sleeping at this very moment in between kisses from Judy and Shadow. It's a happy ending that just reinforces my belief in the power of prayer. And my prayer is that Socks the Cat's story might remind readers to continue to pray in faith this Christmas season and throughout the year. It really works.

God bless.